Arsenal 1 Everton 1: Four talking points as Ross Barkley stars
Arsenal 1 Everton 1: Four talking points as Ross Barkley impresss at Emirates Stadium
Two points dropped for title favourites Arsenal
When Mesut Ozil rammed Arsenal into a 80th-minute lead, they looked set to gain a seven-point advantage at the top of the table. Ultimately, they were stung by Gerard Deulofeu four minutes later but for most of the game Arsenal showed the sort of qualities that make them outright title favourites. In the first half, they had to cope with a lot of pressure from Everton but Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker were so dominant that the Toffees never managed a serious shot. The two complement each other perfectly, with the former quick and superb in the tackle and the latter a towering presence in the air. When they did manage to get a foothold in the game they looked irresistible. Aaron Ramsey, in particular, was a joy to watch as he combined with Ozil and Olivier Giroud and the decision to take him off was a strange one. In the end they will feel hard done by not to have won the game, particularly with Giroud’s late effort coming back off the bar. With their fellow challengers dropping points with alarming regularity, Arsene Wenger’s men should be backed to claim their first title since 2004.
Everton are genuine top four contenders
This was a real statement from Everton. Not only had Arsenal won every home league game since a disastrous performance against Aston Villa on the opening day, they had dominated every side to come to The Emirates. In that respect, Roberto Martinez will be as delighted with the performance as the result. His team were well worth the point that they managed to collect and in the end the game could have gone either way. They have a solid backline, with two England internationals in their first-choice defence. Phil Jagielka dominates nearly every striker he comes up against and despite a solid performance from Bryan Oviedo, the threat of Leighton Baines was sorely missed. In Seamus Coleman, they have one of the most underrated players in the league. The Irishman has everything a full-back needs; he is quick with superb delivery and possesses great defensive positioning. They are shielded superbly by James McCarthy and Gareth Barry, allowing the likes of Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas to threaten teams. Romelu Lukaku was quiet against Arsenal but is capable of getting 20 goals a season and Deulofeu looks as dangerous as any winger in the league. They are a complete unit and given the inconsistency of the teams around them, Martinez has every reason to be optimistic about a top-four finish.
Barkley should be England’s nucleus
Barkley was absolutely outstanding on Sunday. He was only given 15 minute run-outs in England’s friendlies against Chile and Germany, so clearly Roy Hodgson is not completely sold on him. With performances like this, England should not just be starting him but building the team around him. There is a debate over to whether to pick the developed players most likely to steer England past the World Cup group stages or give the next generation some early tournament experience. Barkley though ticks both those boxes. He is strong physically, has a wonderful first touch, is dynamic in his passing and dribbling and has already chipped in with two goals this season. He is the complete player and at 20, he is only going to get better. The position behind the striker is a crucial one in modern football and should not be filled by a player like Daniel Sturridge who, for all his talent, has proved himself to be an out-and-out goalscorer.
Gunners over-reliance on playing through teams their only weakness
For all of Arsenal’s beautiful football, they did struggle to create many clear-cut chances against a compact Everton side. What they lacked was a serious threat out wide, with Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere not showing the necessary pace to trouble accomplished full backs. When Theo Walcott was introduced this changed and they were rewarded with a goal. He is the only player of that mould they have available to them at present though. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gives them a similar threat on the left but is currently injured, while Serge Gnabry and Ryo Myaichi are not currently considered to be ready for the first team. When the one-touch passing is not coming off it is essential that they have more options in this area to get results in games where they perhaps do not deserve them. If the likes of Ozil and Ramsey can play through-balls for quicker players to run onto, Arsenal would have so much more joy in unlocking defences that do not look like cracking.